It appeared that the Houston Rockets were finally having their moral debut in the 2015-2016 season when after two periods they had a comfortable lead against the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena despite two extremely poor showings against Denver and Golden State.
Instead the Rockets blew a huge lead and were trounced by the Heat ending up losing (again) by a 20 point margin.
Overall the game was controlled by the Rockets in the beginning with strong showings from Marcus Thornton and Montrezl Harrell. However as the game progressed it was clear the team is still missing a strong defensive presence at the rim.
With an incredibly thin bench in a team already missing Lithuanian center Donatas Motiejunas, early Sunday morning it was announced the Rockets had signed Chuck Hayes. No, not for a staff position developing the team youngsters as you might have thought, but to play that same night.
History with the Houston Rockets
For those of you who might not know much about him, Chuck Hayes is a undersized (6’6) power forward / center who makes up for it with his strength, hard work, knowledge and leadership. He was signed by the Rockets in 2005 after going undrafted, but showed off with solid performances in the D-league.
Throughout his career as a Rocket, Hayes was a consistent role player that usually came off the bench and impacted the game on both ends of the court. Offensively he set crushing screens for his teammates and on the defensive side he clogged the paint with his huge body and limited opponents attempts or post-up plays.
It’s worth noting that even though Chuck Hayes may not be the kind of player attractive to the statistics avid analyst, he has always been a dutiful player whom coaches like to have by their side and on the court carrying out instructions, delegating and conducting the team.
That may very well be the reason many consider him (including Daryl Morey and our own Space City Scoop Editor) as the real leader behind the 2007-2008 team that entered the history books going on a 22-game winning streak. Bill Simmons highlights this in his excellent article on T-Mac which is worth a read and book mark all on it’s own.
In his six years playing for Houston he had averages of 4.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 20.1 minutes per game.
After leaving Clutch City he had decent seasons with the Sacramento Kings and the Toronto Raptors, but never managed to have the same impact or play the amount of minutes as he did when playing for the Rockets.
How Chuck Hayes can contribute to the team
Before the current season began Hayes had an agreement to return to the Rockets that unfortunately fell through due to salary cap issues. He then signed with the Clippers for preseason before eventually being cut.
Now called in as an emergency, Chuck finds himself on a Rockets team in critical condition compared to its preseason state.
The team and coach McHale face dilemmas in their style of play which is way too dependent on knocking down threes and drives to the basket: both proving to be ineffective this season so far. That’s not all as the Rockets face injury problems and must find a way to improve fast in a overly competitive Western Conference.
That being said, I believe Hayes can still contribute even if in a diminished role. He is a leader both on and off the court and a knowledgeable veteran. Therefore he can provide the team with stability and guidance in their present tough situation.
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Of note, he was said to be one of the main locker room reasons for the Raptors turn around. Upon his arrival the Raptors went from being considered a team looking to tank to a team who went to the playoffs and lost on the final shot of Game 7. In fact, many speculate Hayes had a lot to do with Kyle Lowry’s emergence as a leader on the squad. If you watched any of the Raptor games last season the two sat beside each other on the bench and were always in conversation.
Chuck already proved in his first appearance Sunday he is still a capable NBA player. He was the only one on the Rockets team able to stop Hassan Whiteside post-up plays and held his ground when getting bumped by the Heat center.
Clint Capela needs time and Howard unfortunately looks to be a liability right now; and with James Harden’s current awful phase, analysts, commentators and fans everywhere may have found – perhaps rightfully so – a scapegoat in the big guy and his injuries.
Unintentionally Chuck Hayes may be the person to solve a lot of problems for the Houston Rockets bringing a much needed sense of firmness, defensive voice and consistency in a perhaps (if wins don’t start coming) soon-to-become explosive environment.